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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Aggie: The Cattle Wrangler

When guests come to the farm during a busy time, there's no time for chitchat. Back when I was a child, I remember when my Aunt Merlene and Uncle Dick sometimes would come for wheat harvest. They'd pull into Grandma and Grandpa Neelly's drive with their station wagon packed tight with my six cousins. But we couldn't just sit around on Grandma's turquoise-flowered couch. We were busy, so at least part of them went to the harvest field, too.

Flat Aggie has been visiting us for several weeks now. Since we've been busy with cattle, we've had to put him to work. But, with all that's been going on, I'm a little behind when it comes to blog posts.

Two weeks ago, Aggie helped us gather the feeder cattle. These are cattle that were born last winter here on the County Line, so they are about a year old. Last summer, they were in a pasture with their mothers. Then, this fall, we weaned them from their mamas.

Weaning means that they no longer get milk from their moms. Instead, we feed them grain, silage and alfalfa hay.
This shows the silage being fed via the feed truck being augered into the feed bunks.
It's hard to take photos of rounding up cattle. That's especially true when four go crashing through a fence and don't go where they are supposed to go. So, I didn't get any photos of that part.

But, after we got all the feeder cattle gathered, we put them in a pen to sort them. We needed to sort the heifers - the girl calves - from the steers - the boy calves. Randy planned to keep 25 heifers and will put them with bulls later in April so that they will get pregnant and have their own baby calves next winter.
Last fall, we had a veterinarian come and give vaccinations to the calves. As they went through the chute, Randy decided whether they were heifers that he'd potentially want to add to our own herd. If he did, the doctor gave it a brucellosis vaccination, plus a tattoo and a red eartag on the left ear to show it had received it. This vaccination is important for the health of both mamas and their babies.
This was from a different year, but it shows the red tag put in the heifer's right ear and Dr. Harder tattooing the same ear.
So, as Randy and I were sorting, we were looking for the red tags in cattle that were milling around. The calves all have their winter coats, so it's not too easy to find the little red tags at a glance. Again, it's not a good time to take photos, so I don't have any of that process. Sorry Aggie, but we wouldn't want you to get hurt!

We ended up with 50 heifers and 48 steers. Randy and I sorted, while Jake ran the gate in case a calf got by us that we wanted to keep.

We let the steers out into the bigger corral and then sorted the heifers. Since Randy just wanted to keep 25 to breed for our herd, he picked out the ones which had been treated with the bruccellosis vaccine. Then, among those, he chose the ones that he thought had the best characteristics that we want to carry on in our herd. He looked for heifers with a straight back, good muscling, a larger frame size, good feet, a smaller head and a feminine look. 
We put the heifers and the steers that were going to the cattle sale in a separate pen. Then Aggie helped us open the gates, and we let the remaining 25 heifers back into the pasture. When we take cattle to summer pastures, they will go, too.

The next day, the semi truck arrived to haul the cattle to the sale barn.
We have two small cattle trailers, but it would require a bunch of trips to haul 98 calves to the sale barn. So we hire Darrel Harner Trucking to bring a semi. Aggie had to look over the big truck.
We again put the cattle in a pen, then we moved them into a smaller pen ...
and then they go single file up a loading chute and into the semi. The semi is divided into different compartments, which can hold anywhere from six head to 25 head of cattle. Darrel would tell us how many he wanted at a time, and we'd send that many into the truck. Each semi can haul about 50,000 pounds.
After they were all loaded, Aggie and I watched as the semi pulled out of the driveway and headed to the sale barn in Pratt.
The photo below was taken another year, but it shows that the cattle are off-loaded from the semi into pens at the sale barn, where they are sorted by sex and size. The sale barn workers put the cattle into different pens where they have water and feed until sale time. There are lots of pens throughout the sale barn facility. Each sellers' cattle are kept separate in different pens.

Tomorrow, Flat Aggie and I will tell about our adventures during the cattle sale. 


  1. I am so glad Aggie got to help load cattle! I hope he didn't learn too many new words. ;)

    1. The guys were on their best behavior with a visitor. :-)

  2. Great photos and explanation of the goings on. I always try to get pics sorting and such. But its hard to do on the back of the horse or on foot in the alley when cows are coming toward you!

    1. Yes, I've about given up in those times. I can usually multi-task, but not when a 1,200-pound cow is coming toward me!